Best Buy needs to win back shoppers – before it’s too late

tractor-operator-at-best-buyBig box electronics stores are starting to look ancient. In an age where small, tailored outlets like Apple Stores have become something of a Mecca for fans, large tech empires like Sony are following suit, and Amazon has become a go-to for your every purchasing needs, the era of the gadget department store might be coming to a close.

Best Buy could become the latest victim of our changing times. In a recent Wall Street Journal blog post, investors have been warned that Best Buy has definitely seen better days—and that things aren’t looking up. Despite the fact that its largest competitor, Circuit City, has closed, the retailer’s shares continue to plummet and its UK business is in the process of being shut down.

It might be too late, but if Best Buy has any hope of getting back into the game there are a few things the company needs to correct.

Customer relations

Best Buy’s customer service is arguably one of its biggest problems. The store has become notorious for pushy sales staff, employees with little to no technical knowledge, and confusing policies that seemed rigged to trap buyers. So the first step is to fix this.

As it currently stands, Best Buy’s Customer Service counter is basically where you’re banished when you find the floor staff  incapable of assistance. And the complaints about these employees generally range between inept to moronic. For every ten terrible Best Buy employees, there’s certainly a diamond in the rough—a knowledgeable, helpful person who’s actually interested in electronics and the people buying them. But you’re only as good as your reputation—and Best Buy doesn’t have much to brag about in this department.

Take a hint from Apple on this one—only do it better (and with less condescension). The Genius Bar, for all its blue-shirted hierarchy, is an idea that Best Buy could adopt. Let the customers approach you with their own questions, instead of targeting buyers and reeling off a prepared interview that leads to why they need to buy such and such item instead of what they are actually looking for.

Create a central, unintimidating space where customers can approach staff for electronics help. These employees should be able to answer questions, not create them. And they shouldn’t be pushing specific agendas of the corporate branch—we know there needs to be a place for it, but there should also be one where consumers don’t have to be on their guard against the up-sell or programs like Buy Back.

Fighting the Internet

While Circuit City is now a thing of the past, Best Buy’s real competitor is the Internet retailer. Their lack of brick-and-mortar locations mean that sites like Amazon can sell products for less, and users have taken to this with ease.

Unfortunately, Best Buy hasn’t really embraced Internet shopping like it should. Days before Christmas this year, the site told customers that some online orders wouldn’t make it in time, and some popular products have been pulled due to customer demand.

Best Buy clearly hasn’t figured out the inventory scheme just yet, and customers are suffering. The company needs to adopt a better system for this, which likely means downsizing physical stores and turning more attention online. That means more online IT staff and increasing how much money and brainpower are directed at inventory management and sales forecasting. You can’t make customers go to your stores if they don’t want to, and they shouldn’t be punished with sub-par service for shopping online.

Products vs. content

Best Buy should also consider Borders. The store haphazardly decided to focus on selling media content, buying huge stores that were half-packed with DVDs and CDs for sale. Then because of the digital revolution of this material, it was forced into high prices for these goods. And the rest is history.

Think about the last time you were in a Best Buy: how much of the store was dedicated to DVDs and CDs? There’s a reason that stores that specifically sell these products aren’t doing very well anymore. The content consumption model has gone through a massive upheaval, and physical copies really can’t compete anymore.

Of course, Best Buy does sell digital access to movies—via CinemaNow. Suffice it to say this isn’t the most popular platform out there. It’s probably time to consider partnering with a larger name for this content. The store does work with iTunes for music, but it would be wise to consider transitioning to entirely digital storefronts for music and movies. Providing stations that help you set up and utilize these accounts would be a great way to reach and educate new streaming customers—but think about the real estate the store could save by eliminating rows upon rows of titles.

This would also allow Best Buy to focus on what it is good at selling: big home and entertainment electronics. For the most part, people still want to buy their dishwashers and 50-inch flatscreens from a well-known store. They don’t, however, really need to get their CDs or MP3 players there. 

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.

Smart Home

Clean up with these Presidents’ Day sales on washers and dryers

Clean up with these Presidents' Day weekend sales on washers and dryers. We picked the top washers and dryers from six major online merchants, but there are many more choices. Altogether the six sites have 920 washers and dryers on sale.
Home Theater

If you've got questions about Ultra HD Blu-ray, we've got answers

Ultra HD Blu-ray discs and players are a killer way to beef up your home theater. Here's everything you need to know about one of the most significant advances to hit home entertainment in years.

These are the must-have games that every Xbox One owner needs

More than four years into its life span, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From Cuphead to Halo 5, the best Xbox One games offer something for players of every type.
Emerging Tech

Of all the vape pens in the world, these 5 are the best

Vaping concentrates has become significantly more popular, especially among those that use cannabis for medicinal purposes. But don’t use just any vape pen: we found these five devices to be our favorites in 2018.

RTX might be expensive, but the 16 series could have the best Nvidia Turing GPUs

Set to debut at a step below the RTX 2060 on the price and performance spectrums, the GTX 1660 Ti and its other 16-series brethren could be Nvidia's killer mid-range cards of 2019 — especially with Tensor Core-powered DLSS.

Ryzen 3000 chips will be powerful, and they might be launched as early as July

AMD's upcoming Ryzen 3000 generation of CPUs could be the most powerful processors we've ever seen, with higher core counts, greater clock speeds, and competitive pricing. Here's what we know so far, based on both leaks and the recent…
Product Review

Razer just made our favorite gaming laptop even more powerful than before

The Razer Blade, our favorite gaming laptop, is now more powerful than ever before. That’s thanks to the new Nvidia RTX graphics cards inside. Do they help Razer retain its edge over the competition?

With no plans for merging operating systems, Apple opts to combine apps instead

Apple is working on combining all of the the apps it offers to iPhone, iPad, and Mac users by 2021. App developers will soon be able to build and submit one version of their apps to be used by Apple product users.

These are the coolest games you can play on your Google Chrome browser right now

Not only is Google Chrome a fantastic web browser, it's also a versatile gaming platform that you can access from just about anywhere. Here are a few of our favorite titles for the platform.

Amazon takes $200 off Apple’s latest 13-inch MacBook Air with retina display

Amazon is taking $200 off Apple's latest MacBook Air. This MacBook Air has 13-inch retina display, a built-in FaceTime HD camera, and that classic lightweight wedge shape the Air is loved and known for.

Samsung drops a solid $100 discount on the Chromebook Pro

If you're in the market for a new laptop, but can't afford to drop $1,000 on one of the best models out there, Chromebooks are an excellent option. Right now, Samsung is offering $100 off the Samsung Chromebook Pro.

Lost your router? Here's how to find its IP address to help track it down

Changing the login information for your router isn't always easy, that's why so many have that little card on the back. But in order to use it, you need to know where to go. Here's how to find the IP address of your router.

Between Intel and AMD, these are the best gaming CPUs at every price

What are the best processors for gaming you can buy? You don't need to spend a fortune to get an amazing gaming CPU and now that AMD is competitive again, there are more choices than ever.

Our favorite Chrome themes add some much-needed pizzazz to your boring browser

Sometimes you just want Chrome to show a little personality and ditch the grayscale for something a little more lively. Lucky for you, we've sorted through the Chrome Web Store to find best Chrome themes available.